E. Unity efforts:
In such a scenario of embedded division, sectarian groups will inevitable arise. In order to establish some harmony among those who were inherently divided because of the way in which they have understood the Bible, a superficial unity is often established between those who discover that they must come to some common deductive conclusions.
In such cases, differences are often debated among the sects of misguided restorations. But for the sake of not having “division in the church,” agreements are made upon which a great number of the dissidents can come to a common understanding on what is binding and what is a matter of opinion. These are often legal matters of agreement that subsequently become the identifying characteristics of the movement, or those who would be identified as a part of the restoration movement for unity.
It is at this point that the movement as a whole becomes sectarian, and thus is separated from all others who have followed the same system to determine their own behavior and theology in seeking to be the church of the first century. Unfortunately, the restoration movements that were initially started to produce unity, inadvertently encouraged the adherents to circle around and become that from which they fled.
Ecumenical movements are somewhat different. They are efforts to restore unity among different existing religious groups. Because these movements are efforts to produce some semblance of unity in a community of sectarianism, the adherents to such efforts must first realize that all ecumenical movements are orchestrated by men who come together in order to speak in peace with one another. Unfortunately, in order for religious leaders to speak peace in the same room through theological compromises, or at least theological temperance, the authority of the Scriptures is often set aside. Simply because there is an effort to be together for the sake of peace among different religious groups does not mean that we should leave our Bibles at home. True unity must be based on something greater than our forbearance of one another’s theology.
We have, fortunately, witnessed some ecumenical efforts on the part of many religious leaders who want to lay aside their theological deductions in order to unite on the gospel alone. There is some hope for these movements. In one such meeting where we were invited to speak with the leaders of such a movement, the question was asked by one of the leaders, “How can we be united when we all believe so many different doctrines?” Our response was, “When we understand the gospel correctly, and agree to be united on the foundation of the gospel, then many of the theological differences simply fade away and are not important points over which we should argue, and thus stay away from one another.”
We are in contact with hundreds, if not thousands of church leaders who have grown weary of division over senseless issues. These leaders seek unity that is based on the gospel more than the preservation of their religious heritage, or the uniqueness of their particular group. Theirs is a thirst to respond to the gospel alone.
Admittedly, these are independent churches who have already released themselves from the shackles of traditional religions. They have left the sectarianism of traditional religion, but in their “restoration,” they have become sectarian among themselves because their initial move was not based solely on the gospel. Nevertheless, these independent church leaders realize where they are. In the midst of so much evil in their communities, they have come to the conclusion that in some way they must work together. They now seek to work together in their communities in order to be united on the foundation of the gospel. We would write and confess that this is indeed an exhilarating time in history where such restorations to the gospel are taking place.
[Next in series: January 21]